First-place Sporting KC concedes late in 1-1 draw against Atlanta United FC
Benny Feilhaber scores in third straight game with 59th-minute penalty kick; Atlanta rescues a point as Jacob Peterson scores against his former club; Sporting KC moves three points clear atop Western Conference standings and extends club-record home unbeaten streak to 21 regular season matches
2017 MLS Regular Season Game 23 of 34 Children’s Mer cy Park | Kansas City, Kansas Attendance: 19,418 (99th straight sellout) Weather: 73 degrees and cloudy
Sporting Kansas City: Tim Melia; Saad Abdul-Salaam, Ike Opara, Matt Besler (C), Seth Sinovic; Roger Espinoza, Ilie Sanchez, Cristian Lobato (Benny Feilhaber HT); Gerso (Jimmy Medranda 83), Latif Blessing, Daniel Salloi (Diego Rubio 71) Subs Not Used: Adrian Zendejas, Kevin Ellis, Graham Zusi, Soony Saad
Atlanta United FC: Brad Guzan; Anton Walkes, Michael Parkhurst (C), Leandro Gonzalez Pirez, Mikey Ambrose; Jeff Larentowicz (Chris McCann 71), Carlos Carmona, Julian Gressel (Jacob Peterson 67), Miguel Almiron, Yamil Asad; Hector Villalba (Brandon Vazquez 83) Subs Not Used: Kyle Reynish, Tyrone Mears, Kevin Kratz, Andrew Wheeler-Omiunu
Referee: Chris Penso Assistant Referee: Cameron Blanchard Assistant Referee: Corey Rockwell Fourth Official: Sorin Stoica VAR:Juan Guzman Jr.
(Aug. 6, 2017) — Sporting Kansas City went three points clear atop the Western Conference standings with a 1-1 draw against Atlanta United FC on Sunday at Children’s Mercy Park.
Benny Feilhaber came off the bench and buried a 59th-minute penalty kick to give Sporting Kansas City the advantage, but fellow substitute Jacob Peterson denied his former club a victory by scoring in second-half stoppage time as Atlanta rescued an unlikely point.
The result extends long-running unbeaten streaks for both sides: Sporting Kansas City (9-4-10, 37 points) has now gone 12 straight games in all competitions without a loss while pushing their club-record home undefeated run to 21 regular season matches, while Atlanta (10-7-5, 35 points) avoided defeat in their sixth straight league fixture and kept hold of fifth place in the East.
With a pivotal Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup semifinal looming on Wednesdayagainst the San Jose Earthquakes, Manager Peter Vermes made three changes to Sporting Kansas City’s lineup from last weekend’s 3-2 win over the Chicago Fire. Right back Saad Abdul-Salaam filled in for MLS All-Star Graham Zusi, midfielder Cristian Lobato earned his first start in place of Feilhaber, and Diego Rubio dropped to the bench with Gerso returning from suspension to join Latif Blessing and Daniel Salloi in a three-man attack.
A pedestrian first half kicked into gear near the half-hour mark when Roger Espinoza picked up a loose ball and slid a decadent pass down the right channel for Gerso, who cut centrally and pulled the trigger from the edge of the box. The ball would strike the hand of Atlanta defender Mikey Ambrose in the penalty area, but referee Chris Penso waved play to resume.
The hosts continued to grow into grow into the game as Gerso lashed a long-range effort wide before Espinoza prompted Atlanta goalkeeper Brad Guzan into his first save with a 25-yard drive from a central position.
For the first time this season, Atlanta failed to record a single shot attempt in the first half. The visitors’ best look of goal before intermission came in the 36th minute when Julian Gressel’s 30-yard missile swerved beyond of goalkeeper Tim Melia’s left-hand post. At the opposite end, Ilie rose above the rest to nod Gerso’s in-swinging free kick marginally off target.
Melia was summoned to make his only save of the evening in the 50th minute, diving low to his right to push Jeff Larentowicz’s fierce blast wide of goal. Two minutes later, Gerso bent a free kick over Atlanta’s four-man wall and a yard high of the crossbar.
Blessing did well to win Sporting Kansas City’s spot kick in the 57th minute, demonstrating hustle to keep possession alive before being chopped to the turf by Atlanta defender Leandro Gonzalez Pirez. Feilhaber made no mistake on the ensuing penalty, slotting low into the left corner to tally his fifth goal of the year. The midfielder has now scored in three straight regular season matches for the first time in his MLS career, having converted a PK at Real Salt Lake on July 22 and a bicycle kick against Chicago last Saturday.
Momentum had firmly swung in Sporting Kansas City’s favor, and Salloi almost doubled the lead on 60 minutes when he pounced on a turnover and fired a bullet straight at Guzan. Nearly 20 minutes later, Feilhaber’s venomous strike was deflected high into the air and landed onto the foot of Blessing, who went down under Ambrose’s challenge before Atlanta scrambled to clear out of its own box.
Gerso spurned a glorious opportunity to seal a victory in the 82nd minute, sprinting onto Espinoza’s delightful through ball before slicing a shot wide on the breakaway.
Atlanta salvaged its equalizer in the 91st minute when Michael Parkhurst’s long diagonal ball into a crowded penalty caromed off multiple bodies before falling kindly to Peterson, who finished neatly into the low, left corner to mark his first appearance since March 31 with his second goal of 2017. Peterson spent the previous five seasons in Kansas City, where he notched 15 goals and 10 assists across 135 games in all competitions.
Sporting Kansas City will now have two days’ rest before returning to Children’s Mercy Park on Wednesday for a U.S. Open Cup semifinal showdown with San Jose. Tickets for the all-important match are available atSeatGeek.com as Vermes’ men continue their pursuit of the club’s fourth Open Cup title against an Earthquakes outfit that has yet to win the prestigious tournament.
Sporting KC Manager Peter Vermes
On changes to his team’s lineup and if they were related to having a game on Wednesday “Whenever I put a lineup together, my expectation is centered around winning the game that we’re currently playing. It has nothing to do with the next game. I felt the guys that were on the field could do the business. As I tell the guys when we start every year, I tell them that everybody at some point is going to have to make a contribution at some point or another. There’s no doubt that you have to look at the season as a whole and games that are coming, but at the same time, right now our focus was tonight and we had a very good chance to get the result that we wanted and unfortunately we didn’t. We gave it away at the end there.”
On the frustration of not getting the result “The frustration is that I thought we played very well against I think a very good team. Being a first-year expansion team, I think they’re organized, I think they move the ball well, they’ve got some very dangerous individual players. I love the fact that they tried to come in here and play, it was an entertaining match for everybody who came to watch it. I thought that we had the game under control, for sure. The fact that we gave up a goal like that at the end of the game, which all your doing is lumping a ball into the box and you’re hoping that it falls down just like it did, there’s a little bit of commotion, somebody pops out, the ball comes around and somebody sticks it in the back of the net. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what happened and we weren’t ready for it. At the end we weren’t good enough to close the game out tonight, that’s the frustration.”
On holding the league’s best offense to two shots on goal “I would say that the team played well, we kept the ball, we didn’t lose it except for a few times in the first half in critical areas in the middle of the field which then led to a few counters. We were able to close those out and not give anything away. Second half, we were much better in regards to keeping the ball and moving it from side-to-side and they lost their ability to press us because they had wasted a lot of energy in the first half. So now we start getting in on them quite a bit, we score the goal, at that point we’ve got to stick the second one away. We had a few little chances here and there, we’ve got to close the game out. You can still win 1-0, and we should’ve.”
On if continuing the home unbeaten streak and getting a point made the draw bittersweet “It’s not bittersweet, it’s freaking bitter. We lost two points tonight, we had the game in hand. We gave away a ridiculous goal at the end and we didn’t close the game out. It’s simple, it’s not a good feeling. But as I said, I give them a lot of credit, they’re a good team. I think they play well, they’ve got an identity, their players fight till the end and look, it’s simple, they wanted to score at the end, we weren’t up for the challenge.”
On his opinions about the introduction of Video Review “I think it’s great. I think VAR is great and I think having instant replay is tremendous and it’s great for the growth of the league. This was about time from FIFA to make this decision, we’ve got to get up with today. We have all kinds of technology and we should be using it. You’ve got owners, you’ve got clubs, you’ve got teams, you’ve got players, you’ve got staffs – they’re putting so much time, money and everything into this, so much is on the line. To not use the resources around you to get things right doesn’t make sense to me. This is a way to help get things right, obviously there’s going to be growing pains in the beginning but we’re all just going to have to deal with that, but I do think overall it’s going to be a huge help as time goes forward.”
On if he was expecting VAR to be used on an Atlanta handball in the box in the first half “I’m sure they did – they check every play, so I’m assuming they thought that it wasn’t (a) clear and obvious (error). I’m assuming they had to have reviewed it.”
On if he had any interaction with Jacob Peterson after the game “I actually talked to him before the game a little bit, talked to him after, I told him that I wasn’t happy that it was him who scored. He’s a good man, he put a lot of good years in for us and helped us with a lot of success and I just wished him all the best.”
On if introducing Benny Feilhaber at halftime was always part of the game plan “It was planned. Cristian (Lobato) – I wasn’t sure if he could do more than 45, (we’re) trying to build him up a little bit, he was able to get 45 tonight but he started to get a little tired. So it was just a good time to insert Benny, but we felt that it was going to be hard for him to go past 45, we knew that going into the game.”
Sporting KC midfielder Benny Feilhaber
Thoughts on the match I thought it was a pretty tight game, actually. I thought its as going to be more open. We worked hard and tirelessly for 90 minutes and we were able to get the goal. We should have put the game away with at least one more, but unfortunately we didn’t do that and we weren’t able to preserve the shutout. it’s disappointing at the end to give up a goal like that. it’s obviously a soft goal to some extent unlucky with the way it bounced around and fell to Jacob. That’s what happens when you allow a team to stay in the game at 1-0 and that’s a possibility that can always happen at the end of the game.
On his postgame interaction with Jacob Peterson I didn’t talk to him about the game. I talked to him about his kids and he asked me about mine.
On the introduction of VAR into MLS I think it’s good. The more calls we get right, the better. I think that gives us abetter chance to get the calls right more often than not. it’s not going to be perfect, but I think it’s a step forward.
Sporting KC goalkeeper Tim Melia
On if he takes any positives away from tonight “I think this game feels like a loss, but we were organized defensively. We took a team that is very aggressive and connects very well in their front three or four and we shut them down the whole game. We didn’t give them a lot of opportunities. I think it is something that has kind of been nagging at us all season. Maybe we have dropped our guard at the last second and gotten a little bit unlucky. We are not where we should be in the standings because of some points we have given up and we need to correct that now. This game is over with and we need to correct that now.”
On how the team turns around quickly to the Open Cup game on Wednesday “At this point this game is over, it’s behind us. We can’t change the result as much as we would like to. We have a big opportunity with a semifinal at home with the potential to move on to a final at home. We need to focus on playing our best game at home on Wednesday and getting through to the next round.”
Atlanta United FC head coach Gerardo Martino
On stealing a point on the road for the second straight match “They are two completely different circumstances. Last week, I think we deserved to win and tonight I think we should have lost.”
On what Kansas City did well tonight “Kansas City is an even better version of Columbus. They are a team that elaborates and plays very well out of the back. They have a very good holding midfielder who elaborates and starts the play for them. They have two inside midfielders who are very good technically. Maybe they don’t create as many chances as they could, but they are a very sound team.”
On Jacob Peterson’s return “It’s not only good to have him back, but it was good that he was able to score tonight. He gives us a lot of motivation, a lot of will and sometimes in games like tonight, that is what a team needs.